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Monday, 16 October, 2000, 10:04 GMT 11:04 UK
Nepal rebels 'offer peace talks'
Durban square, Kathmandu
Some 1,500 people have been killed in the past four years
By Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu

The authorities in Nepal say that Maoist rebels appear ready to stop violence and start peace talks.

But they say the rebels want the government to give out details about Maoist workers who have allegedly disappeared from police custody.

The chairman of a government committee set up to resolve the Maoist problem, Sher Bahadur Deuba, disclosed that he recently met a senior Maoist leader.

Mr Deuba said the leader made the peace offer if the government gave him information about arrested Maoist workers, including a senior leader Dinesh Sharma.

Nepalese police
The rebels demanded an end to "police repression"
Mr Deuba did not say when and where the meeting took place.

Earlier, the rebels had demanded that the government stop police repression, release the arrested Maoist workers and investigate alleged police excesses.

Attacks

It is not clear why the rebels dropped the other demands but the reported softening of their stand has come after the government stepped-up security measures following fierce rebel attacks on government targets.

Twenty-two policemen were killed in two separate attacks last month and, since then, there has been speculation that the army would be brought in to tackle the rebels for the first time since the Maoist insurgency started in 1996.

But analysts say the latest overture could mount pressure on the government to start peace talks with the rebels who are fighting for a communist republic.

Both the government and the rebels are under pressure from other political parties and human rights organisations to immediately initiate dialogue and end the chain of violence which has claimed 1,500 lives in four years.

All efforts to bring the government and the rebels to the negotiating table so far have failed.

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See also:

25 Sep 00 | South Asia
Maoist rebels kill police in Nepal
23 Feb 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Nepal's Maoist rebellion
13 Apr 00 | South Asia
Police die in Nepal mine attack
08 Feb 00 | South Asia
Nepal urged to talk to Maoist rebels
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